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September’s Green Challenge: Less Paper

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

The green challenges for our family has been going pretty well. We’re still using our canvas grocery bags, and we use cloth napkins for every meal at home. We even try to avoid getting plastic bags when shopping when possible, asking if we can just take the purchases and receipt without a bag. We’re doing pretty well at limiting our napkin and paper towel usage elsewhere, but we have had a few baby incidents in public which I do not feel guilty about at all. I’ll spare you the details in this post.

This month’s challenge is to reduce the amount of paper coming into our house. This one is going to be difficult for me as I like to file away all of my bills and bank statements, you know, in case I need them. What if the bank or utility company screws up something? I pay all my bills electronically, but I get all of my bills and statements in the mail. I just haven’t been able to take that leap into doing it all electronically. September is the month for that for us.

Some things that we plan to do:

  • Sign up for electronic billing and bank statements whenever possible.
  • Contact any catalogs that we receive and get them to take us off of their mailing list (we have done this in the past since the previous owners of our house received a TON of catalogs).
  • Reduce the amount of junk mail that we receive by contacting the senders and by following these tips by the NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance.

Feel free to leave a comment to suggest more things that we could do to reduce paper (or ideas for future months).

Green Challenge for August

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

It’s time for me to talk about about our family’s Green Challenge. This month, we are attempting to use less paper towels. This is a little harder to measure. Last month, we started using the reusable canvas grocery bags. We LOVE them! The bags hold a whole lot more than the plastic bags. We keep them in the trunk of our car, and we have used them every time we’ve been to the grocery store.

So, how will we use less paper towels? I’ve been pretty bad in the past about using paper towels excessively. In the past few weeks, we have been using cloth napkins with our meals. We use cloth diapers to clean up baby messes (and sometimes for our own messes). We’ve been trying to use our dish rags and kitchen towels instead of paper towels in the kitchen. I’ve also been more conscious of my paper towel/napkin usage outside of the home. I’ve been trying to use just one napkin instead of 2-3 at lunch. I try to use just one paper towel when drying my hands in the restroom. I believe that even though our efforts are small, it all adds up over time!

Challenging ourselves to be more Green

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Lately, we have been thinking about various things that we can do to be more “green.” My company has started an incentive program to encourage employees to generate less waste when it comes to the cafeterias. Each time you get a lunch without using any disposable containers, styrofoam cups, or excessive baggies, then you earn a sticker. Collect enough stickers, and you get a free meal. For me, it has been just enough to motivate me to be better. It’s not the free meals that motivates me, but just the existence of the program gives me the extra push that I needed.

Previously, I had been getting a disposable cup every single day. I got take out containers and plastic forks to bring lunch back to my desk (even when I used the cafe in my building). I always got 3 napkins. I will even admit to throwing away plastic bottles at work rather than taking them home for recycling. Since the program started, I have been very good! Rather than get disposable containers, I take my tray up to my office and return it when I am finished. I have been limiting myself to one napkin (which I will save for later, if unused). I’ve been taking home all of my empty bottles to recycle. And it feels good! And now I want to extend our efforts at home.

So, the idea is that we will do something new in an effort to be more “green” each month. I’m always tempted to jump into something and do *everything* at once, but then my energy for whatever it is fizzles after a short period of time. I figure that by adding something small each month, we will be able to stick to it and create new habits for our family.

This month, we are doing something that we have thought about doing for a while. We bought reusable grocery bags, and we intend to use them every time we go to the grocery store. We always kept the plastic bags for reuse, but we have SO MANY of them. Our pantry, a full kitchen garbage can, and several cabinets have been literally overflowing with them. We can’t possibly use them at the rate that we get them. Reusable grocery bags really make sense! The plastic bags are handy, but we can always get them if we need to restock our supply. So far, we have done well with using the canvas bags! The only time we didn’t use the bags was when we were in Gatlinburg (and we did reuse those plastic bags for packing for the trip home at least). We love the sturdy canvas tote bags. They hold a lot more than the plastic bags, so it makes the groceries more manageable. We bought ours from Harris Teeter, but I know that many grocery stores and online retailers carry them.

Stay tuned each month for the little things that we are going to try to incorporate into our daily routines! I’ll also be reporting on how we are doing with our goals.

A few of the simple things that we are already doing in our household:

  • Replacing regular lightbulbs with CFLs once the old ones need replacing.

  • Recycling all cans, plastic bottles, glass, newspaper, magazines, and cardboard in our town’s recycling.
  • Collecting our chipboard and white paper to take to the local convenience center for recycling. Unfortunately, these items aren’t picked up by the town yet.
  • Carpool to work every day (except when Gabe works from home, of course). We have arranged our schedules to make carpooling work. It’s not always convenient, but we enjoy the family time together. These days it is saving us a good chunk of change each month as well!